Shandon Sahm, son of Texas legend Doug Sahm, provides the final quote in the documentary, Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove, saying “He was put on this earth, like the Texas tornado that he was, came in, left us all this beautiful great body of work and music and went, ‘I’m outta here.’”
Shandon is not exaggerating his father’s power; he was in fact a force of nature and a musical prodigy. Doug Sahm started playing music as a young boy and had his radio debut at the young of five; he even played with Hank Williams on his final show. Sahm broke into mainstream pop with his group the Sir Douglas Quintet in the ‘60s with his hit song “She’s about a Mover” and continued to weave his influence into popular music throughout his life, never subscribing to a genre or label.
Shandon has made a name for himself in the music business, not by relying on his famous last name but solely on his talents. He was the drummer for ‘90s metal band, Pariah and served two stints as the drummer for the Meat Puppets as well as working with Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers.
With his latest release, Sahm Covers Sahm, Shandon pays homage to his famous father and is embarking on a short run of Texas dates coming all the way from his new home in Amsterdam. He will be performing his tribute show at the Continental Club on October 18.
“I’m just letting people know this is a tribute, it was a one time thing looking like dad, I don’t dress like that. I call it arena glam folk rock. I call it the folk because I'm strumming an acoustic and singing but I’m going to have a rock band behind me.”
He admits that he had been kicking around the idea for a tribute to his father since 2009, but life on the road with the Meat Puppets took precedence over completing the album. He recorded some tracks in Texas, working with the West Side Horns that had backed his dad so many years ago, but ultimately the record was completed in Holland.
“I had the idea, basically I got it from Zappa Plays Zappa. I always wanted to do a tribute my way. I wanted to do one that I could dive into, get my feet wet and dive into the catalogue,” says Shandon. Once he settled in Amsterdam and found himself a label, he revisited his songs with what he calls, “ten years fresh ears.”
The timing for this record and tour was not planned, but happen to coincide with the 20 year anniversary of his father’s death and what would have been his 78th birthday next month. Shandon admits to the healing power of music and the closure it has helped provide for him in dealing with his father’s unexpected passing of a heart attack while sleeping in a motel room.
“You can’t hold a guy like Doug’s hand through life. I’ve been up and down, I’ve been really sad. I accept it and now after 20 years I just go, that was his destiny. I really wish he was here, I wish he was doing the oldies at 75, but he left a good amount of music. I really wish he could kind of see his influence now, they consider him the little blueprint of Americana, which is true but at the same time it’s just sad how the cards fell that night.”
Doug Sahm always lived his life unapologetically being himself and avoiding at all costs paying the “groove tax”, which Shandon says his father described as anything that took him away from his music, including self care. He melted the sounds heard in his mind and heart taking influence from his home of San Antonio and beyond. He is credited for not only for sparking the cosmic cowboy movement of Austin in the ‘70s, but also for the Tejano sound we hear to this day with his work in the Texas Tornados alongside Freddy Fender, Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez.
Doug may have provided the groundwork for much of American popular music but is often overlooked when it comes time to give credit where credit is due. "Did I get sad knowing that I saw Texas Monthly and it said "Outlaw Country" and it had Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson on the cover and not Doug, hell yes. Yes, but I knew from looking at that cover, that a picture of him would be in there, and it was, but it should have been on the cover that's what I'm saying."
Shandon, like his father before him, decided to relocate from Austin in search of a different scene. “I have dad's adventurous spirit in that sense where we just want to see what’s out there.”
“I wanted to completely change the backdrop. I wanted to play to completely different audiences, of course they can get on the net and know who you are, but when someone walks into the club they have no idea, no preconceived notions, no Doug’s kid, no Meat Puppets, they just know if they like it, they like it, if they don’t they don’t.”
In Amsterdam, Shandon has found a home with his new label, Friendly Folk Records, and plans on releasing a solo album next year as well as a second volume of recordings of his father’s songs. Though he’s happy in his new city, Shandon is looking forward to briefly returning to his Texas roots.
“What I want to bring to Houston and this tour is the Sahm bandleader vibe. Do I have dad’s voice? No, but it’s very similar. Can I play as many instruments as dad? No, but I can play bass, guitar, drums and sing. One thing I can do really well, that’s a natural Sahm trait, is that bandleader trait.”
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Shandon also inherited his father’s love of sounds and lack of adherence to strict genre labels. “Dad didn’t live by any rules and that’s the motto I get from it. There should never be rules when it comes to music or art, if you don’t like it somebody next to you will.”
Shandon’s main goal is to keep his father’s legacy alive and push his music forward. “One thing I will give that guy, he lived a million life adventures in those 58 years. He was a guy ahead of his time, but his songs are still so classic, they still sound great today. We got the music, we just need to remember that.”
Shandon Sahm will perform Sahm Covers Sahm October 18 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, doors open at 8 p.m. $15-25